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Oklahoma City Mayor calls for discussions on new NBA arena

David Holt, Mayor of Oklahoma City, has called for discussions on a potential new arena for the city’s NBA basketball franchise.

Oklahoma City Thunder currently plays at Paycom Center, which opened in 2002. The team has played at the arena since 2008 but its lease is due to expire in 2026.

In March, the city council outlined plans for a $105m (£87m/€103m) renovation of Paycom Center as part of a wider project to enhance the guest experience at the arena. The venue is owned by the City of Oklahoma City, which selected global architecture design firm Populous to develop a masterplan for the renovations.

In 2008, the city signed a 15-year lease agreement with the Thunder, and last month the team activated a further three-year option, ensuring its future at Paycom Center until at least 2026.

Speaking to local radio station WWLS-FM, Holt expressed the city’s desire for a longer-term relationship with the Thunder. The Mayor feels a new arena could be needed to ensure this and retain Oklahoma City’s major-league status.

“Our arena is by square footage the smallest in the entire NBA,” Holt said. “As far as the money and investment that’s put into it, it’s second to last, only ahead of New Orleans.

“The margins are big. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars more that have been put in most other NBA arenas and as far as size goes, we’re at about 560,000 square feet. Twenty-two NBA arenas are bigger than 750,000 square feet, and three of them are bigger than a million square feet.

“The size of your venue is the potential it has to provide amenities to users. We’re one of only two cities, with New Orleans, that built our arena when we did not have an NBA team. We made decisions when we built that arena 20 years ago that we’ve been able to overcome but maybe not forever.”

Any new arena project would take years to come to fruition, but Holt said that the new venue should be located downtown, where Paycom Center currently is.

He added: “We want to have a long-term relationship with the Thunder and we have to do the things that cities do to have those kinds of relationships.”

Cloud-based financial software company Paycom acquired naming rights to the arena in July last year as part of a 15-year deal with the City Thunder. Paycom replaced Chesapeake Energy, which had sponsored the arena since 2011 before ending its deal early in April 2021.

Image: Steve Morgan/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size